For residents of four tribal hamlets near Sirumugai in Coimbatore district, the arrival of monsoon is the beginning of worries. A bridge at Lingapuram on the way to their hamlets comes under water once rain intensifies and water level increases in the Bhavanisagar Reservoir, water storage areas of which are spread across Erode and Coimbatore districts.
As in the past few years, the bridge across Kanthayar, a tributary of River Bhavani, remains submerged and residents of Kanthavayal, Alurvayal, Mokkaimedu and Uliyur hamlets now depend on coracles to cross the flooded area.
The water level in Bhavanisagar reservoir stood at 102 feet against the full reservoir level of 105 feet on Wednesday and its storage areas in Sirumugai have come under water. Though the dam is situated in Erode district, large portions of its water storage area are in Sirumugai.
The alternative route to the four hamlets, where around 300 families live, is a lengthy mud road through the reserve forest with animals, including elephants and carnivores.
N. Murugan, a resident of Lingapuram, said the bridge is submerged for nearly 15 days. “Four coracles are being used to shuttle people. As the flooding happens every year, construction of an elevated bridge will be the only solution,” he said.
In September 2021, the crew of 108 ambulance service attended the labour of a tribal woman in her residence and they had to take a coracle ride to take the newborn to the nearest Government hospital for postnatal care.
A Health Department official said that a field visit was conducted a few weeks ago to check the health condition of residents, including expectant mothers.
According to the Forest Department, it is currently allowing the residents to use the forest route, but only with vehicles, as the bridge has been flooded.
“They are permitted to use the forest path with four-wheel vehicles only during the day as there could be animal movement” said Sirumugai forest range officer D. Senthil Kumar.
Coimbatore District Collector G.S. Sameeran said that the tender process of an elevated bridge in place of the submerged bridge was under way.